We took in the Best of the Best Middle School Showcase this past Saturday at The Big House in Tavares. Over 150 players in the 6th thru 8th grades participated. With that many participants and a short amount of time, our attention was focused on the 8th grade division.
Here are the players that caught our attention.
Ethan Knox, 6’2, Lakeland Victory Christian: Knox is athletic, long, and looks taller than his listed height. He gets off the floor very quickly for rebounds at both ends of the court. He plays with a motor that runs high and is quick to get shots up in the paint. Knox is swift down the floor in transition. His projected growth in both height and skills suggest a high ceiling.
Johnas Maurice. 5’9, Orlando: Maurice is a very quick and confident ball-handler. He frequently got to the basket and finished in a crowd. At this stage of his development his perimeter shot is respectable. Maurice is also an active defender that anticipates the passing lanes well and does a good job of keeping the opposing ball-handler in front of him and away from the basket.
Vincent Kokonis, 6’0, Jupiter: Kokonis showcased a savvy and positionless game. He has good ball-skills and court vision as he is a good passer both on the break and in the half-court. He rebounds well and is quick to outlet the ball to a teammate or advance the ball up the floor on his own. Kokonis shot the ball well from the perimeter both off the catch and the bounce.
Josiah Gillard, 5’11, Riverview Bell Creek Academy: Gillard came across as a good shooter with a soft touch on either side of the arc. He was able to create and make mid-range shots off the dribble. Gillard handles the ball well, sees the floor and finishes shots at the basket. He is a grab-and-go rebounder that pushes the pace and looks to challenge the defense at every opportunity.
Amir El-Mahmoud, 5’10, Orlando: El-Mahmoud was one of the better shooters from deep at the event. He plays with great energy, gets ahead of the defense in transition, and is an active rebounder. His play seemed to get better as the day progressed.
Kelvin Ceballos, 6’2, Miami: Ceballos has good size and a solid frame for his age. He showed that he can put the ball on the floor to score but also make shots from the perimeter inside the arc. Ceballos rebounds his area well and runs the floor hard. His athleticism will improve as he matures physically.
Jaiden Martin, 5’5, Tampa: Martin may be small (now) but is super quick AND under control. He finishes well in a crowd despite his size. Martin makes good shot vs. pass decisions when the defense collapses on him when he gets into the paint. He uses his speed and quickness well on the defensive end to harass opposing ball-handlers.
Legend Frisby, 5’10, Davie: Frisby plays very confidently and has a high hoops IQ. He handles the ball well, sees the floor, and makes good decisions. Frisby was one of the few players that looked to get the ball into the post and understood how to create the angle to get it there. The lefty also shot the ball well from the arc.
William Stewart, 5’10, Jacksonville: Stewart is a good athlete that also shot the ball well on both sides of the arc Saturday. He understands how to take advantage of the mismatch he has, whether it be with his size or with his quickness. Stewart finished well in transition, got to rebounds at both ends, and covered a lot of ground quickly on defense.
Gavin Gorman, 6’1, Boca Raton Grandview Prep: Gorman checked a lot of boxes with his effort and basketball IQ. He handles the ball well, sees the floor, and delivers passes on time and on target. Gorman can grab the rebound and push the ball up the floor on his own. He has a lot of versatility on both ends of the floor.
Yaddiel Sanchez, 6’3, Orlando: Sanchez has a strong frame and good skills. He can post up and score inside, score off one or two dribble drives from the high-post and short corner areas, and connect on perimeter shots inside the arc. In short, he is a tough cover. He rebounds well and quickly outlets the ball. He is another youngster whose athleticism will improve as he gets older.
Brian Fernandez, 6’0, Riverview Bell Creek Academy: Didn’t get to see much of Fernandez in five-on-five action, but he showed enough during drill and station work to be convinced of his potential. He has a good skill level at this stage of development, good form on his shot, and demonstrated solid ball-handling and passing skills. In the bit of game action we did see, he showed an ability to attack the defense on the dribble and activity on the defensive end.
Cameron Robinson, 5’10, Jacksonville: Robinson is a high-level athlete that is very quick with the ball, easily gets through defenses to the basket and can make some acrobatic finishes through contact. He drives looking to draw contact and get to the foul line. His jump shot will develop in time. Because of his speed and lateral quickness, Robinson creates havoc on the defensive end.
Miles Moten, 5’8, St. Petersburg: Moten is only in the sixth grade, but we could not take our eyes off him during the skill work sessions. He has clearly been well taught as his footwork, ability to pass with either hand, and shot form were well beyond that of his peers in the age group. Moten drilled perimeter shots consistently inside the arc. It will be interesting to see how he develops over the next couple of years.